Tag Archives: Research Roundup

Research Roundup: Drawing closer to curing the organ transplant shortage, using dengue antibodies to minimize the effects of Zika virus and more!

Welcome to this week’s Research Roundup. These Friday posts aim to inform our readers about the many stories that relate to animal research each week. Do you have an animal research story we should include in next week’s Research Roundup? You can send it to us via our Facebook page or through the contact form on the website.

  • Scientists grow bullish on pig-to-human transplantsResearchers give hope to those desperately waiting for an organ transplant. Although the technical skill in organ transplant has been well developed, minimizing the immune response for organs transplanted from one species to another has not. Recently, researchers have been able to lessen, although still not eliminate, the dangerous immune response that transplanted pig organs cause in monkeys. At the University of Munich, a cardiac surgeon, Paolo Brenner, reported results of the first animal to hit a milestone for determining whether a xenotransplantation approach is safe enough to try in humans. According to Immunologist David Cooper, University of Alabama in Birmingham, the new immunosuppressant drug regimens, genetically engineered pigs, and the use of gene-editing tools has increased the ability to safely transplant organs from one species to another. This leads to the possibility of, at least, temporary organ transplants while a patient is waiting for a human organ to be available. This can improve the quality of life for those awaiting kidney transplants and even extend the life for those with more urgent needs for life saving organ transplants.

Genetically engineered pigs produced in Munich, Germany, were recently used in a record-breaking baboon heart transplant. Credit: Jan-Michael Abicht

  • Common antidepressant found to reduce belly fat in older mice. Visceral fat, as compared to subcutaneous fat, is generally considered to be deadly, being linked to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. New research suggests that it is inflammation of immune cells which may lead to the accumulation of visceral fat, for example in the belly area. Christina Camel and her team at the Yale school of Medicine used young and old mice, isolated the macrophages from within the fat tissue, and then sequenced DNA from these cells. They found the macrophages in the older mice expressed more genes that prevent catecholamines, a set of molecules that spread signals between nerve cells. “The genes do this by activating an enzyme that suppresses these neurotransmitters. The boosted activity of this enzyme in aged immune cells in the belly fat of older mice effectively block signals telling the body that there is fat there that is available to burn for energy.” The drug used to accomplish this was “a common antidepressant called clorgyline, which is given to some people because low levels of catecholamine have been linked to symptoms of depression.” This research was published in the journal Nature.
  • New technique turns mouse brains transparent. Stroke is the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death worldwide. During a stroke, the blood supply to the brain is cut off, which prevents oxygen and vital nutrients from reaching cells. To understand this process, researchers typically examine 2D images of brain slices under a microscope. Now, a new technique has been developed where a fluorescent gel is injected into the hearts of mice and pumped through the body. The brain is then removed and soaked in chemicals, which leave the brain completely transparent. A laser is used to illuminate the fluorescent gel and provide a 3D image of the entire brain. In the brains of mice that had a stroke, researchers could see how the blood supply is cut off, and how surviving blood vessels reorganize. This research was published in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism.

Image source: Antonino Paolo Di Giovanna et al./CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

  • Transplants of stem cells “cure” anemia in mice. Chronic kidney disease affects 30 million humans in the USA alone. Anemia is the decrease in total red blood cells. People whose kidneys are damaged can develop anemia, as the kidneys are responsible for making the hormone erythropoietin (EPO) that is key to triggering the production of red blood cells. This means the patient lacks enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body as effectively. In the present study, stem cells from human cord blood were induced into becoming pluripotent cells that were then coaxed into becoming cells that produce EPO. The cells were transplanted in the kidney cavities of mice with a form of anemia. Within 4 weeks, EPO levels were 20 times higher than those in controls. “Just one transplant of the human EPO-producing cells treated kidney anaemia in mice, keeping their haemoglobin levels in the normal range for the remaining 7-month lifespan of the animals,” says Kenji Osafune, of Kyoto University in Japan, who led the team. This research was published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine.
  • Anti-Dengue Antibody protects against Zika Virus Infection. Dengue and Zika are caused by related viruses, and as such, Professor Diamond and co-authors reasoned that an antibody, EDE1-B10, that prevents dengue disease may do the same for Zika. To accomplish this they infected nonpregnant adult mice with Zika and then administered the EDE1-B10 antibody in as series of experiments. They found that that for the antibody to effectively protect fetuses from Zika infection, it must be administered soon after infection.“Such a goal may be unrealistic clinically because women rarely know when they get infected,” the scientists noted.“However, giving women the antibody as soon as they know they are pregnant could provide them with a ready-made defense against the virus should they encounter it.” This research was published in the journal Nature Immunology.


Research Roundup: Brain circuits for dominance, new HepC rodent model, eye repair in zebrafish and more

Welcome to this week’s Research Roundup. These Friday posts aim to inform our readers about the many stories that relate to animal research each week. Do you have an animal research story we should include in next week’s Research Roundup? You can send it to us via our Facebook page or through the contact form on the website.

  • Brain circuits for social dominance discovered. For humans and most other animals, a previous history of winning dictates continued social dominance. In a study recently published in Science, Zhou et al. may have found a neurological explanation for this “winner effect”. They show, using mice, that the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) mediates behavior in a social conflict. Using optogenetic methods, researchers stimulated the dmPFC using light and found that this was sufficient to induce “winning” in mice tested on a task used to measure social dominance. Interestingly, this also worked in mice that were previously shown to be a “loser” when paired with another mouse in the task. If an analogous mechanism present in humans, this study could be of major importance in understanding various relevant psychiatric conditions associated with social behavior. This research was published in the journal Science.

  • New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine. This discovery is a stepping stone towards the development of a vaccine for Hepatitis C which affects nearly 71 million people worldwide. Although there is now a cure for Hepatitis C, most people go undiagnosed leading to damage of the liver. Until now, an animal model was not available for vaccine development because hepatitis C is highly specific affecting only humans and chimpanzees. This breakthrough comes as a result of a collaborative effort with Ian Lipkin, a researcher at Columbia University, who was studying pathogens of common rats in New York City. He found a rat version of the hepatitis virus and after sharing his work with Dr. Charlie Rice, a researcher in virology at The Rockefeller University, they found a way to infect mice with the rat version of the virus. There are differences between the primate and rodent version of the virus but there is hope that “this research will help unravel mechanisms of liver infection, virus clearance, and disease mechanisms, which should prove valuable as we work to develop and test hepatitis C vaccines that can help to finally eradicate the disease around the world.” This study was published in Science.
  • A study in zebrafish found that the immune system controlled its ability to regenerate eye tissue. Researchers at John Hopkins are studying the ability of zebrafish to repair damaged eye retinal tissue using the regenerative response of Müller glia Having found that microglia, a type of cell involved in immune response, were the only cells able to penetrate the blood-retinal barrier, they prevented these cells from functioning, resulting in almost no regeneration from the Müller glia cells. A better understanding of this process could help scientists unlock human eye regeneration. Dr Jeffrey Mumm noted, “humans still have the genetic machinery needed to regenerate retinal tissue, if we can activate and control it.” This study was published in PNAS.
  • Early disruption of gut microbiota shapes later health. The gut microbiome plays an important role for health in humans and all living animals. In a recent study published in Nature Communications, researchers discovered that disruption of gut bacteria in frogs during the tadpole stage of maturation had negative effects on how adult frogs dealt with parasites. This effect may also be present in humans. Wherein, early-life disruption of human microbiota may stimulate the development of an under-reactive immune response to infections in adulthood.

  • Potential treatment for infants exposed to alcohol in utero identified. In the United States 1-5 percent of children are diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which impairs learning, is linked to later-life behavioral problems, cardiovascular problems, and delayed development. In efforts to reverse these negative effects, scientists at Northwestern University treated rat pups, exposed to alcohol in utero, thyroxin or metaformin. Thyroxin is a hormone that is reduced in pregnant women that consume alcohol, and also in infants with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Metaformin is an insulin sensitizing drug that is found at higher concentrations in alcoholics. Both drugs reversed memory deficits, independently, as a consequence of in utero alcohol exposure. “We’ve shown you can interfere after the damage from alcohol is done. That’s huge,” said lead investigator and senior author Eva Redei. “We have identified a potential treatment for alcohol spectrum disorder. Currently, there is none.”The researchers are now looking for funding for clinical trials. This study was published in Molecular Psychiatry.

Research Roundup: Cholesterol vaccine in mice, zebrafish & osteoporosis, new cytomegalovirus treatment, and more!

Welcome to this week’s Research Roundup. These Friday posts aim to inform our readers about the many stories that relate to animal research each week. Do you have an animal research story we should include in next week’s Research Roundup? You can send it to us via our Facebook page or through the contact form on the website.

  • Human trials of cholesterol-lowering vaccine are underway after success in mice. This vaccination is designed to stop fatty deposits from clogging arteries — reducing the effects of a form of cardiovascular diseases known as atherosclerosis. This vaccination targets a protein called PCSK9 that allows low density lipoprotein (LDL; “bad cholesterol”) to accumulate in the arteries. In mice, this treatment reduced LDL levels up to 50% over 12 months. This vaccination provides promise of a simpler way “to target high cholesterol and ultimately reduce people’s risk of heart disease.” An editorial on this research was published in the European Heart Journal.

Blocked arteries impede blood flow. Source: Getty.

  • Zebrafish, genetics and osteoporosis. The zebrafish’s ability to regenerate body parts, including scales and fins, has led to their involvement in the study of bone physiology and repair, as well as the identification of treatments for human bone diseases. Researchers at the University of Malta are working with zebrafish as a model to investigate osteoporosis, specifically the genetic factors that may contribute to the disease.  Dr Melissa Marie Formosa, a researcher involved in the project ‘Genetics of Osteoporosis’, writes, “The ultimate aim of genetic research remains that of elucidating the best treatment options based on the person’s genetic make-up and predicting disease outcome in susceptible individuals.”

Healthy bone, left, and osteoporosis, right. Source here.

  • An alternative explanation for loss of consciousness during anaesthesia was published this week in PLOS Computational Biology. Scientists typically speculate that when animals and humans are given anaesthesia, communication between brain areas is disrupted thus leading to loss of consciousness. Although such speculations have been previously tested and suggested to be true, the logic behind such speculation is questionable. Specifically, communication only seems to decrease when less information is available to exchange, thus loss of information should “reduce” rather than “disrupt” communication between brain areas. With these thoughts in mind, German neuroscientists measured brain activity in two ferrets over 3 trials of anaesthesia and recovery — increasing the amount of anaesthesia each time. Their measurements suggested that the ferrets’ brain activity was more subdued when anesthetized, but it didn’t seem communication was disrupted. Rather, the brain areas that send communication signals were less active, and the brain areas that receive communication signals were just as active as normal. This brings into question our current understanding of the mechanisms behind anaesthesia, and will be a starting point for future research in this area.

Lab-housed ferrets. Source: NC3Rs.

Image of mice courtesy of Understanding Animal Research

  • Drug used to treat anxiety found to be effective against the effects of cytomegalovirus (human herpes 5), which can cause major birth defects such as microcephaly, seizures, developmental disabilities, and deafness. Approximately 50% of all humans over the age of 40 harbour the cytomegalovirus and approximately four in 1000 babies suffer massive defects as a consequence. Mice treated during the first three weeks of life with valnoctamide — a drug used in the treatment of anxiety — were found to have reduced levels of the virus available for entry to the brain, to have restored timely acquisition of neurological milestones, and to display rescued motor and behavioral outcomes. Given the pervasiveness of this virus and its debilitating effects, and also that there is no vaccine against this virus, this work is extremely timely and promising. This study was published the Journal of Neuroscience.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) virus. Source: J. Cavallini.

Research Roundup: Pig cells for Parkinson’s Patients, Lab grown cartilage and more

Welcome to this week’s Research Roundup. These Friday posts aim to inform our readers about the many stories that relate to animal research each week. Do you have an animal research story we should include in next week’s Research Roundup? You can send it to us via our Facebook page or through the contact form on the website.

  • Brain cells from Pigs have been implanted into Parkinson’s patients in hopes to stop the progression of the disease. Parkinson’s is a neurological disease in humans that causes tremors and difficulty moving, which usually worsens over time. Such dysfunction of the motor system is caused by gradual loss of brain cells that make dopamine. Current technologies synthetically replace dopamine in the brain, however, this is not always effective. Now, a new technology, developed by Living Cell Technologies, implants cells from the choroid plexus of pigs into humans with the aim of nourishing the remaining dopamine-producing cells. The approach was first successful in a rat model and non-human primate model of Parkinson’s disease and has now been done in 4 human Parkinson patients with promising results 18 months after implantation.
  • A new study suggests that the liver may grow and shrink by up to 40% every 24 hours in response to ribosomal activity.  Mammals, in general, consume food at certain times throughout the day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), in a cyclical rhythm. After consuming this food, the liver plays a pivotal role in producing biochemicals necessary for digestion, regulating glycogen storage, and detoxifying byproducts of metabolism. Recent research, published in the journal Cell, investigated how the liver adapts to daily rhythms of eating using mice as a model of mammals. Their research showed that the mass of the liver, hepatocyte size, and protein levels follow a daily rhythm, that depends on feeding-fasting and light-dark cycles. A second experiment showed that daily rhythms of protein levels in the liver are correlated with daily rhythms in ribosome number. This fundamental research has implications for our general understanding of liver function, which may allow for future cures in liver disease and dysfunction.

  • Lab-grown cartilage has similar mechanical and biochemical properties to natural cartilage. Cartilage helps joints to move, but can easily be damaged by trauma, disease, or overuse. Once damaged, cartilage does not regrow and is often difficult to replace. Biomedical engineers have been developing artificial cartilage using human chondrocytes over the past several years to replace damaged cartilage. Now, researchers from the University of California Davis have tried a new method by growing the artificial cartilage under tension, which helped the cartilage grow stronger and now has similar properties of natural cartilage. The researchers then implanted cartilage into mice and found there were no negative interactions between the cartilage and the living mouse. The next step is to try the lab-grown cartilage on a load-bearing joint to see if it remains durable under stress.
  • Social stimuli may be an inadequate replacement for juice rewards for monkeys in behavioural neuroscience research. A study funded by the NC3Rs aimed to find out if images of other monkeys could be used to reward monkeys for participating in research, rather than traditional juice rewards — which often require fluid-restrictions to work. The researchers conducted the study in 4 rhesus macaques, and first confirmed that these monkeys preferred monkey images (a social stimuli) to nonsense control images. They then tested monkeys on a simple cognitive task, offering only juice reward, juice + social stimuli, or only social stimuli. In all monkeys the juice reward improved motivation, and only one monkey did the social stimuli improve motivation. The scientists concluded that this form of social stimuli might be ineffective, suggesting it may be because all monkeys are pair housed in socially stimulating environments. The study was published in PLOSone.

Macaques were used in the study. Image: Understanding Animal Research


  • 8 years of research culminate in a vaccination to fight heroin addiction. Approximately 9.2 million people in the world use heroin, some of which results in death due to heroin abuse — approximately 91 Americans die each day from overdosing on opioids. Using mice and rhesus macaque monkeys, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute developed a heroin conjugate vaccine which reduced the potency of heroin by 15 times in mice and 4 times in monkeys. The effects of these vaccinations persisted for over 8 months. This preclinical research brings us closer to an effective heroin vaccination for treating opioid use disorders. This study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Research Roundup: Risks in gene editing tools, reversing skin ageing, neural code of love, and more!

Welcome to this week’s Research Roundup. These Friday posts aim to inform our readers about the many stories that relate to animal research each week. Do you have an animal research story we should include in next week’s Research Roundup? You can send it to us via our Facebook page or through the contact form on the website.

  • Gene-editing technique that scientists hope will cure cancer and all inherited disease found to have dangerous flaw.  Crispr-Cas9 technology allows editing of a specific section of the genome. This has led scientists to explore its use in curing genetic diseases like muscular dystrophy and blindness and even curing cancer. A team of researchers in the US successfully used this technology to restore sight in mice. They then sequenced the entire genome of three of these animals and found that despite the mice appearing normal, hundreds of areas other than that targeted DNA sections were affected in some mice. Typically a computer algorithm is used to identify areas of the genome that have the potential to be damaged  and then those specific sections are examined. The result of this study shows that when using this technology for live animals, the entire genome needs to be sequenced in order to identify unintended mutations that may have occurred.  One of the researchers, Professor Stephen Tsang, of Columbia University, said: “We hope our findings will encourage others to use whole-genome sequencing as a method to determine all the off-target effects of their Crispr techniques and study different versions for the safest, most accurate editing.”  Researchers are confident that this technology is still medically beneficial but encourage others to be aware of the potential side effects, as with any medical intervention. This study was published in the journal Nature Methods.

  • Research on a specific brain connection brings us closer to understanding the neural code of “love”. Prairie voles are an interesting model species because,like humans, one of their mating/cohabitation styles is that of monogamy. Previous research has identified that brain chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin, acting on the medial prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens, co-occur with the formation of a monogamous pair bond in this species. In the present study, they found that the prefrontal cortex regulates the rhythmic oscillation of neurons in the nucleus accumbens — and it is this functional connection that leads to the formation of the pairbond. Moreover, using optogenetics, they were able to stimulate this connection during brief cohabitation with a mate — not long enough to facilitate pair bonding — and found that this was sufficient to induce a preference toward this mate. The results of this study lend insight to disorders which are associated with impaired social functioning such as autism. This study was published in Nature.

  • A new tool for genetic modification. Two UC Davis graduates, Arshia Firouzi and Gurkern Sufi, have developed a gene editing tool that they hope will refine animal research. Their start-up company, Ravata Solutions, came about through their combined expertise in electrical engineering (Firouzi) and biotechnology (Sufi), and together these graduates have devised a method to refine genetic engineering in research animals, particularly rodents. Genetically modified mice are widely used in human disease research, and currently these models are developed by “injecting a needle into a cell,” but this invention creates pores in the cells that will allow the insertion of genetic materials “without a trace,” said Sufi.
  • Century old drug, Methylene Blue, shows promise reversing the effects of skin aging in humans. Researchers at the University of Maryland, have recently tested methylene blue on 3D models of human skin, from human donors, and determined that the chemical improves skin viability, increases skin hydration and thickness, promotes skin elastin and collagen synthesis, and protects the skin matrix. Previous research on mice and rats over the past decade, has led to this discovery. A study in 2008 on rat liver cells demonstrated that methylene blue delays cellular aging. Then a study in 2014 suggested that methylene blue extended the lifespan of female mice by 6% when included in the food. We hope that research on this topic continues to both help the aging effects in normal humans and patients with Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, a rare genetic disorder of accelerated aging. This study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

  • New study finds that having a stroke may be a risk factor for increased alcohol consumption. It is generally accepted that excessive alcohol consumption is a risk factor for having a stroke. However, it is virtually unknown how having a stroke may later affect the inclination to consume alcohol — a question that these researchers investigated using rats. These Rats were first trained to consume alcohol using an operant self administration procedure. Next, an ischemic stroke was induced in these animals. In these animals they found an increased inclination to consume alcohol compared to prior to stroke induction. These researchers found that inhibition of a dopamine receptor (D1) was sufficient to reduce this alcohol seeking behaviour in animals with a stroke — suggesting that this is an underlying cause of this effect. “As much as possible, we tried to use a model that would replicate the experience of a human patient,” Sohrabji said. “Therefore, we think that these findings, although preliminary, might eventually help people who have experienced any type of brain injury, whether a stroke or an accident that causes traumatic brain injury.” This study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Research Roundup: Malaria vaccine, mouse sperm in space, animal welfare prizes, and more!

Welcome to this week’s Research Roundup. These Friday posts aim to inform our readers about the many stories that relate to animal research each week. Do you have an animal research story we should include in next week’s Research Roundup? You can send it to us via our Facebook page or through the contact form on the website.

  • New study finds that mouse sperm stored in space still functions on Earth. Increasingly in the news we read about the upcoming reality of commercial space travel (for example, here and here). Of course, with such advances there is caution with respect to feasibility — and of course imagination with respect to possibilities (e.g., colonizing Mars). With such goals on the horizons, these researchers investigated whether sperm that had been freeze dried, and transported to the International Space Station (ISS) and then back to Earth would be able to produce viable offspring. To accomplish this they used freeze dried mouse spermatozoa — which provided a unique advantage, as the addition of water — maintains the viability of the sperm to fertilize an egg and allows for the sperm to be stored at room temperature. Other sperm when freeze dried do not survive. Microinjection  of these “space” sperm into an egg on Earth — produced healthy viable  “space offspring”. Moreover, these offspring all grew to healthy adults and were able to produce offspring of their own. This study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

Space mouse and pups. Source: PNAS

Laboratory frogs. Source: University of Portsmouth

  • Modified experimental vaccine protects monkeys from deadly malaria. Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, discovered that a modified version of an experimental malaria vaccine completely protected 4 of 8 monkeys from a malaria parasite, and delayed the first appearance of the parasites in 3 more monkeys. Scientists modified an existing malaria vaccine by including a particular protein, RON2L, so that it closely mimicked the protein complex used by the parasite to infect blood cells. Vaccination with the modified vaccine resulted in more neutralizing antibody, indicating a better quality response to parasitic infection. Additionally, the modified vaccine seemed to protect against other parasite strains that differed from those used to create the vaccine, suggesting that this new modified vaccine may protect against multiple parasite strains. This research will pave the way toward eventual human trials. The study was published in NPJ Vaccines.

A female Aedes mosquito. Source: NIAID.












  • Researchers at the University of Helsinki has found the lymphatic vessels extend into the brain – overturning 300 years of accepted wisdom. By genetically altering mice using the luminescent GFP gene, so that lymphatic vessels glowed under light, Aleksanteri Aspelund found that there were lymphatic vessels in the brain. The research was repeated by Karl Alitalo with the same results.  Other researchers have found evidence linking problems with the lymphatic and glymphatic systems to Alzheimer’s; one study in mice showed it could lead to the buildup of amyloid beta in the brain – a key sign of the Alzheimer’s. The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

    Red fluorescence of the membrane protein aquaporin-4 in an individual with Alzheimer’s (left) and a healthy individual (right). Source: OHSU

  • Mice help researchers identify genes responsible for a severe congenital heart defect.  Congenital heart disease affect up to 1 percent of all live births. Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a rare congenital heart disease resulting in an inability to effectively pump blood  throughout the body.  Current treatment involves multiple complex surgeries during the first few years of a child’s life. For some, the surgical interventions improve heart function.  For others, it does not,  leading to heart failure and the need for heart transplants. It has been known that genetic risk factors play a role in HLHS but specific genes have been hard to identify.  Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences used fetal ultrasound imaging to look for structural heart defects in genetically modified mice to identify HLHS.  Then by comparing the genomes of affected and non affected mice, and confirming using CRISPR technology they found that mutations in two specific genes that interact were required for HLHS.,   Dr. Cecilia Lo, a professor and the F. Sargent Cheever Chair in Developmental Biology at Pitt says, “Studying diseases with complex genetics is extremely challenging…By understanding the genetics and biology of HLHS, this can facilitate development of new therapies to improve the prognosis for these patients.” This study was published in the journal Nature Genetics.
  • The University of Bristol has awarded prizes in its first Animal welfare and 3Rs Symposium. The 3Rs, developed by Russel and Burch in 1954, have advanced the humane treatment of animals used in research by advocating for replacement (aiming to replace animals where possible, with alternatives), to reduce the number of animals used to the minimum required to answer and experimental question and and to refine their experiments to minimise any adverse effects experienced by the animals.These awards went to three research projects that have advanced the 3Rs in their various lines of research.

“The research project that won first prize has developed a refined method for producing aortic aneurysms in mice.  An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in a section of the aorta, which is the body’s main artery, and if the bulge ruptures it can cause sudden death. The research team has also developed a new human aortic aneurysm model in the laboratory, potentially replacing the need for animal models, using arteries taken from the discarded umbilical cord of newly born babies.

The second prize was awarded to a research team who has developed a method for giving oral drugs using solutions that mice and rats both like and which avoids the need for restraint and reduces stress in the animals. The research team found that liquid foods such as condensed milk, milkshake and fruit puree baby food are good solutions to use for giving a wide range of drugs.
The final prize was awarded to a research team who has developed photographic techniques that can be used in conscious animals.  This new technique has revolutionised preclinical eye research and has markedly reduced the number of animals needed for research studies.”

The 3Rs. Source: Bayer

Research Roundup: Biosensors, breast cancer and the benefits of antiretrovirals

Welcome to this week’s (slightly late!) Research Roundup. These posts aim to inform our readers about the many stories that relate to animal research each week. Do you have an animal research story we should include in next week’s Research Roundup? You can send it to us via our Facebook page or through the contact form on the website.

  • A new experimental technology can monitor and maintain drug levels in body. The device has a biosensor to monitor drug levels in the body; this can relay information every few seconds to a control unit and pump, which releases additional drugs as necessary. Using rabbits, the researchers were able to keep a constant dosage among all animals in their study – despite physiological and metabolic differences between individual animals. Taking it a step further, the research team introduced secondary drugs that, due to acute drug-drug interactions, would disrupt the levels of the initial drug. However they found levels of the initial drug were stabilised by the sensor.  This paper was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Image courtesy of the Soh Lab, Stanford.

  • A gene associated with the growth of cancer cells is also implicated with the growth of stem cells. Previous research by this group has implicated the high-mobility group (HMG) gene in the formation of polyps, abnormal growths projecting from the intestinal lining that can be precursors of cancer, in mice. Examining the intestinal cells of these mice localized the HMG active gene and its protein to stem cells buried within the deep grooves in the intestinal lining. These stem cells carrying the HMG gene multiplied far more rapidly and also increased the number of Paneth cells, a type of niche cell known to support intestinal stem cells. This research provides an exciting avenue for future research into processes that could disrupt cancer growth and prevent tumour progression. This study was published in Nature Communications.

  • Young people who contract HIV in the UK can now expect to live to a near-normal age thanks to anti-retrovirals. A study in the Lancet of almost 90,000 people showed, “Patients who started Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) during 2008–10 whose CD4 counts exceeded 350 cells per μL 1 year after ART initiation have estimated life expectancy approaching that of the general population”. This is 10 years longer than those who started ART in 1996. This breakthrough owes much of its success to animal research that eventually lead to such clinical trials in humans. For example, the ability of AZT, an anti-retroviral medicine more commonly known as Retrovir and Retrovis, to act against HIV (without toxic side effects) was discovered in mice and rats.